Sunday, August 16, 2009

Elmore Leonard does TV, Take 3...

Leonard creates characters you would imagine would work on television. I think its his world that doesn't quite work. Not on network TV, at any rate. Its too bold and colourful and adult. The villains are too frightening, the heroes too cool, the contrasts too stark. There is something about it - the moral balance, perhaps - which is almost evocative of post-War, Eisenhower America. American Network television drama works on one of two principles: either its fantasy (Lost, Heroes, Battlestar Galactica etc) or its "realist" escapist drama. Leonard fits neither. He needs to be on HBO or Showtime.

Neither of the other two series based upon his work - Maximum Bob and Karen Sisco - survived very long on a major network, despite good pedigrees and great reviews. But the newest one - Lawman, premiering next year, has better prospects.
The titular Lawman is Deputy US Marshall Raylon Givens, who has appeared in a couple of Leonard novels (Pronto and Riding the Rap) as well as in the Novella Fire In the Hole, upon which the Series is based. In the novella, Givens is sent back to the hometown in Kentucky pursuing a White Supremacist and is drawn back into local intrigue and violence. In the Series, Givens is reassigned perfectly to his home state.

I can see it working as a Series. The premise is arresting, the environment of the sort we see little of on TV, and in Timothy Olyphant it has a perfectly-cast leading man with experience of playing a US Marshall with a penchant for ultra-violence. Olyphant is a scene-stealer in supporting roles in (Go or the recent A Perfect Getaway) but, Deadwood apart, has never really made it as a leading man. This role, which seems to cater both to his machismo and sense of humour, would seem to be tailor-made for him. The writer/creator is Graham Yost, whose work as a screenwriter is decidedly variable (Speed, Hard Rain, Mission To Mars) but who has a much surer hand on television, where he has contributed to Band of Brothers and Boomtown.

Most crucially its on FX, meaning it will be violent enough, foul-mouthed enough, adult enough to get Leonard right. Meaning ratings won't be the be-all and end-all. Meaning good reviews might actually make a difference. This clip suggests that it could be a cracking show:

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Blogger Monsterwork said...

I've read Riding the Rap. It's rad. Raylan rocks.

7:09 pm  
Blogger David N said...

Indeed. Leonard writes the best heroes, and the best villains, in all crime fiction. Formidable, cool, capable and witty, his heroes are always easy to root for. And if he returns to one, you know he must be exceptional. Which Givens is.

10:18 pm  
Blogger Ross said...

Recently read Valdez is Coming. Riding the Rap is next then!

1:31 pm  
Blogger David N said...

Valdez is Coming is great. All his Westerns are great. Hombre is the most great, probably. His crime writing I think is less great while still plainly great.

5:25 pm  

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